How can I Prepare to Attend a Cocktail Party?
When you prepare to attend a cocktail party, it is much like preparing to attend a dinner party. Your first step is to respond to the host to let him or her know that you plan to attend. Next, determine the occasion for the party, and if it is a birthday or anniversary celebration, begin looking for an appropriate gift. Even if a special gift is not required, it is customary to give a host gift. A personalized corkscrew or monogrammed wine stoppers are appropriate for such an occasion.
Next, determine the appropriate attire. Depending on the formality of the event, you may need to have your tux pressed, or perhaps need to rent one. Women should consider if they have a suitable gown or if they will need something new. If buying a new dress, you will also need to look for shoes and a purse. Even if the event is not black tie, you will still want to look your best, so begin selecting your wardrobe in advance.
Try to determine who else might be invited as you prepare to attend a cocktail party. Bring it up casually in conversation with others you suspect might be invited. If there are important people on the guest list, do a bit of research so you will be able to make conversation. People who don’t have much experience mingling at cocktail parties may want to study up on etiquette, such as practicing keeping a drink or purse in the left hand so that the right hand will be free to shake when introductions are made.
Boorish people are not attractive or impressive. As you prepare to attend a cocktail party, review rules of etiquette such as showing common courtesy toward everyone, including wait staff. While no one expects you to carry on a long conversation about politics with the waiter, a polite "hello," "please," or "thank you" is definitely appropriate. Speaking of politics, it is a good subject to avoid, along with religion and anything sexual in nature, so you might want to catch up on current events, best sellers, or appropriate anecdotes, so you will have something to discuss.
It is a good idea to eat something before you go to the cocktail party. A meal is not usually offered, and although hors d’oeuvres are most likely provided, they are not intended as a meal. You do not want to overeat because you are famished, nor do you want your wine or cocktail to go to your head because you haven’t had enough to eat.
Keep these things in mind as you prepare to attend a cocktail party. Relax and be yourself and you can likely expect further invitations.
One suggestion is that if you are planning on declining invitations, be sure to let the person know as soon as possible. A good host will eventually call you to make sure that you got your invitation, or may even assume that you're going to show up and plan accordingly, and that can lead to embarrassment and a lot of waste if many people don't show up and don't officially decline.
@KoiwiGal - I read a book on planning a cocktail party once and the author suggested that if you are invited to a lot of parties you could come up with something unique but not too expensive that you could customize for each gift. His example was unusual or unique teapots that he found in secondhand shops and tried to match to the host so they would like them. He even did things like potting a plant in the teapot if he knew the host didn't drink tea.
The only thing I would be careful about is that you don't want to keep giving people handmade items unless they are made with skill and are something the person will enjoy. There's nothing worse than being given a handmade gift that you feel obliged to keep but have no interest in using or putting it on display.
Try to find a gift that the hostess or host will appreciate. If you don't know them very well, see if you can find someone who does so you don't end up giving a corkscrew to someone who is in AA, for example.
But if you can do something like getting them their favorite kind of chocolate or tea leaves, or maybe a vintage book by an author they like, you are definitely going to be asked to come back.
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